Lynda Santos is the visionary and operator of the vegan restaurant Healthy Junk. She has worked in the hospitality industry her entire life, and genuinely loves what she does. Her creations bring people together to “eat happy” and “be happy”. At a young age Lynda began experimenting with how to add healthful twists to familiar dishes, while still maintaining a delicious meal. The most influential people in her life have been her parents. Her mother taught her the craft of creating a masterpiece with every dish, and her father engrained the importance of treating everyone like a VIP. She embodies these two influences skillfully as an individual who affectionately creates tasty food, and brings smiles to all. Her words say it best, “I believe food is the connection. It’s all about the love.”
I was raised in the food business. My parents were culinary chefs running an international restaurant, so I was influenced by the beauty of diversity. My Mother was raised on a farm. She always taught me that if you start with fresh ingredients and avoid opening packages, you will end up with a good entree. I was a personal chef for many years, and during that time my understanding of the healing properties of food expanded. I also spent sometime contributing to the first vegan chain Native Foods. Throughout this journey, I have been saving my favorite recipes, and Healthy Junk offers these flavors with healthful ingredients. Food is a precious part of my life, and I put love into every dish I create.
What inspired you to become vegetarian?
When I was 16 there was a movement towards peace and equality, which inspired me to honor what I believe. Because of my compassion for animals I decided to go vegetarian. As I began this path I recognized that my body thrived from balanced nutrition that focused on fruits and vegetables. But a very important aspect of my life is to not judge others for their actions, beliefs, or diet. What I genuinely know in my heart is that we can feed the world with vegetables, and that is what I encourage. In 2004 I became a vegan, and it was amazing how many physical problems went away. It’s not for everyone. Everyone’s body is different and unique. If it feels right, educate yourself and try it out. I never want anyone to feel guilty about what they do. What you decide to put in your body is a personal choice. Not everyone is the same. I never criticize, but if I can enlighten and encourage, then I did good. You got to listen to what’s happening on the inside. What gave you clarity that you were meant to create Healthy Junk? It was a universal intervention. It was a gift that I got and I am sharing it with everyone. A year before the restaurant opened my daughter and I were in Europe while I was serving as a personal chef. My daughter was graduating high school and wanted to come home. This is when ideas starting brewing. I was struggling on what to do next, contemplating different ideas for food trucks. Then I began to ask the universe: whatever you want me to do please lay the path, and no matter how hard it is, I will do it. For months I meditated on this, and one day I had a casual phone call from a close friend asking me to check out a restaurant space in downtown Anaheim. I saw there were no options for vegetarians, and I felt in my heart that this was the place. I got the keys and 6 months later it opened. I feel very honored and very grateful I get to do something like this. The energy, desire, and really the love make it magical. It’s not thrown together haphazardly, it’s gracefully created with compassion.
What is your favorite part about serving the community?
My favorite part is watching people enjoy the food, and knowing that I made someone feel good. Sometimes people are not so happy when they get here. When we feed someone good food and they leave with a smile–that is a gift. My customers are my inspiration, so it’s important that when people walk in they are acknowledged. At the end of the day, I think we are here for each other. I believewe should be the change that we want to see in the world. So, we strive to be kind, loving, and serve healthy food that tastes good. My favorite part about serving the community is sharing smiles.
Why do you think it is important to be vegan?
We only have one planet. I am a conservationist and want there to be resources for future generations. It’s not just good for our body, but good for the earth. If we grew more vegetables we would be able to feed more people. It takes less water, and creates less waste than raising animals. There is no reason why anybody in this world should have to go without food. I am not telling everyone to not eat meat. I am just saying if you would like to eat more vegetables and less meat, you might feel better, and the earth will feel a lot better! I think we can feed the world with vegetables, but I don’t think we can feed the world with meat given how fast our population is growing. In addition, I am compassionate towards animals, and believe it is important to honor my beliefs and my body. The main reason why I believe eating vegan is important is because eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables makes us feel good. Everyone should honor their body for what makes them feel good. Grandma and Mom used to say eat your veggies, and I believe everyone’s life will improve with more plants in it.Bottom line is this: you’ve got to listen to your heart, and everything else will follow. There is a synergy that starts to happen when it’s the right thing. Every moment is a blessing and an opportunity to learn a lesson. I am eternally grateful for the realization of my purpose and to share my open heart with the world. I hope this inspires others to do the same too. By the grace of synchronicity, Healthy Junk opened on Lynda’s birthday July 26th. In celebration, Healthy Junk will be hosting their 1st Vegan Fair in Anaheim with over 15 Orange County vegan and vegetarian brands and restaurants coming together for a Free Community Gathering. Come join us as we set a world record for the longest chain of people performing the Yoga Pose Warrior 2, with the intention of Good Will to ALL and Peace on Earth! – Lynda Santos